Thursday, November 20, 2008

India works toward more employment for people with disabilities

From The Express in India:

KOLKATA, India -- Madhuri Kapur suffers from severe cerebral palsy. But today, she stands tall as a computer programmer training individuals suffering from disabilities.

As Kapur proudly relates her experiences as an employee, she also tries to focus on the social stigma the disabled people face — considered as they are ineligible for work. “I cannot talk. I communicate through alternative techniques. But I am no different from others. When I joined work, there were a few hitches, but such barriers need to be removed and people like us should be given equal opportunity in employment,” said Kapur.

With a population of 1.8 million differently-abled people in West Bengal — according to the National Census 2001 — experts believe opportunities for their employment and absorption into the mainstream should be highlighted.

On Nov. 19, the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP) — a non-governmental organisation spearheading the movement for disability rights and a recipient of the ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s National Award — held deliberations with corporate houses to focus on inclusion of people with disability into the mainstream workforce.

“The biggest barrier is attitudinal. The society seems to look at the disabled as individuals incapable of carrying out normal activities in the corporate sector. West Bengal, which is among the top ten states with a high population of the disabled, is still behind in providing employment options to them,” said M D Chhetri, head of community-based rehabilitation service, IICP.

On the occasion of IICP’s 34th anniversary, a seminar was organised by the institute aimed at addressing the critical issues of necessity to develop practical and feasible strategies to include people with disabilities, particularly those with cerebral palsy, into corporate offices and public sectors.

“The UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability 2007 has been ratified by 10 countries, of which India is a signatory. This implies that necessary steps should to be taken by the government and private sectors to ensure that differently-abled people are not discriminated against,” said one of the activists.

According to Niranjan Khetri of the ITC Welcome Group, there are about 7.5 crore disabled people in the country, of whom only .54 per cent are inducted by public sector units and .05 per cent by the private sector.

“Every corporate sector should try to develop infrastructure in favour of employing the disabled. In our hospitality sector, there are various posts that are and can be filled by the disabled,” said Niranjan.